The Scottish Borders is defined as much by the rolling landscape as it is by its spellbinding abbeys and historic stately homes. It's really no surprise that these lands inspired the works of literary greats like Sir Walter Scott and John Buchan!
Full of historic towns and attractions, there is also plenty outdoor fun to be had. World-class mountain biking trails can be experienced at two 7stanes centres, there’s an abundance of gentler cycling and walking paths to explore and any number of activities including golf, fishing, horse riding and kayaking.
If you’re excited to get out and start enjoying our wonderful country again then here’s some inspiration for great spots to explore now, and fantastic attractions which you can look forward to enjoying later when they reopen!
Check directly with the businesses before visiting on their reopening date, and look out for the Good to Go scheme logo, which shows which businesses have carried out a Covid-19 risk assessment.
JOHN BUCHAN WAY
The John Buchan Way walking route connects Peebles to Broughton through the hills and valleys of Tweeddale, taking in many beautiful views and crossing over the River Tweed. It passes several attractive towns and villages, including Peebles, Galashiels, Melrose, Kelso and Coldstream.
Did you know?
- It’s named after the prolific writer, novelist and editor John Buchan (1875 – 1940). He famously wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps, which was the first popular spy thriller and precursor to James Bond. The Scottish Borders were his life-long love and he attributed the inspiration the area provided for his writing.
- As well as historic villages, you’ll amble over small bridges and burns, through farmland and past oak trees that are hundreds of years old. You’ll pass hidden gems like Stobo Kirk and Cross Kirk, which dates to the 13th century.
- The route is 13 miles (22 km), but there’s no need to walk the entire route in one go. Pick a section and take your time to fully enjoy all the beautiful views, points of interest, and have moments just relaxing in the beautiful natural surrounding as you go.
We do recommend packing a picnic, as this route is ideal for it!
BERWICKSHIRE COASTAL PATH
The Berwickshire Coastal Path will help you blow out those lockdown blues with some invigorating fresh sea air and beautiful views! Stretching from Cockburnspath in the north to Berwick-upon-Tweed, the route takes in quiet beaches and dramatic clifftop scenery complete with arches, stacks and crumbling castles.
Did you know?
- Known for its geological features, the oldest rocks of the area were formed on the seabed an incredible 440 million years ago. The intense folds and faults due to plate movement are particularly visible beside Gunsgreen House at Eyemouth. Devonian Old Red Sandstone which is 345 million years old can also be seen around Linkim Shore, Eyemouth Fort and Siccar Point, which is where the two rock forms meet.
- It rounds St Abb's Head, a National Nature Reserve renowned for its birdlife, to reach the charming fishing village of St Abbs.
- There are also twelve bronze trail markers created by artist John Behm, which link the four memorial sculptures along the route. You can find these markers using your navigation skills or GPS map co-ordinates.
At 28 miles (45 km), the route is one you can return to and complete in sections as you’d like. It is well waymarked for most of the length and provides relatively easy walking, but do take care around unprotected cliff edges.
BORDERS ABBEY WAY
Ideal for walking in sections, this historic trail is a circular route through the heart of the Scottish Borders. At 64.5 miles (103 km) in length, it passes four 12th century abbeys and several towns. The route is ideal for taking in some of the main highlights of the region while also discovering a number of lesser known gems.
Did you know?
- You can take in the spellbinding ruins of Kelso Abbey, Jedburgh Abbey, Melrose Abbey and Dryburgh Abbey. Along the way you’ll also see Hawick, Selkirk, Newtown St Boswells, Denholm and Abbotsford among others, with an abundance of historic buildings, monuments, castles and rolling farmland to discover and enjoy!
- Borders Abbey Way can also be explored by car by driving a very similar route on quiet country roads, although a guide is not provided for this.
PLAN FOR LATER
These ideas are for attractions and activities which are not yet open, but will let you start planning where you’re going to go (and who you want to take with you!).
TWEED VALLEY FOREST PARK
Located amidst stunning Borders scenery near Peebles, Tweed Valley Forest Park includes seven forests: Caberston, Cademuir, Cardrona, Glentress, Thornielee, Traquair and Yair.
Did you know?
- There's a great selection of waymarked walking routes, horse-riding trails, wildlife watching opportunities including red squirrels and osprey, and lots of other points of interest for visitors to this beautiful forest haven.
- Just above the town of Innerleithen, Caberston offers a climb to one of the many Iron Age hill forts that once commanded the valley’s hills.
- Trails at Cademuir and Thornielee will get you away from the crowds, leading through woodland full of wildlife. Horse riders will find great long-distance routes at Cardrona.
See information about the individual forests for routes and more detail about what you can discover in them!
Cycling has exploded in popularity over recent months, proving a great way to get around and a more exciting means of daily exercise! If you’re a mountain biking (MTB) enthusiast, then you’ll probably already appreciate the charms of Glentress near Peebles in the Tweed Valley. However, if it’s something you’ve just started to get into, don’t be daunted by thinking that Glentress is for more experienced riders only.
Did you know?
- The gentle green or blue trails are an ideal single-track downhill introduction for MTB riders of all ages and ability, making it a perfect family, couple or solo day out. You can enjoy the extensive and peaceful forest surroundings as you build your MTB confidence, fitness and skills at the right level and pace for you.
- There’s a large car park, well-marked and maintained graded trails, and even a bike cleaning station in the car park (remember to bring coins for the power hose machine).
So don’t hold back - get yourself a car bike rack if you don’t already have one and get out there!
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS’ VISITOR CENTRE
Set in the centre of historic Jedburgh, Mary Queen of Scots’ Visitor Centre is located in a 16th century towerhouse and tells the story of Scotland's tragic queen. Mary's month here in 1566 was at a turning point in her life. A display of paintings, objects and textiles associated with her explores her life and times.
Did you know?
- The Rogues Gallery introduces the key people involved in the drama of Mary's life, while the Last Letter Room reveals her final thoughts before her execution. You can find out about her ill-fated ride to Hermitage Castle to meet her adviser and future husband, the Earl of Bothwell, which resulted in her falling gravely ill. She would later lament 'would that I had died in Jedburgh.'
- The towerhouse also sits in attractive gardens, home to some of Jedburgh's famous pear trees.
You may also enjoy Jedburgh Castle Jail & Museum nearby.
BORDER’S TEXTILE TOWERHOUSE
At Borders Textile Towerhouse in Hawick, discover the story of the town’s famous cashmere and tweed industries. You’ll learn about the area’s role as a producer of sought-after textiles, supplying designers such as Chanel, Dior and Vivienne Westwood. Displays of fashion, artefacts, photographs and film bring to life over 200 years of tradition and knitwear luxury.
Did you know?
- You’ll also discover the fascinating story of the 500-year-old tower itself, the oldest building in Hawick, built at the time of the Borders Reivers and the focal point of Hawick's annual Common Riding.
- You can complete your visit in the shop, where you can indulge in a little cashmere retail therapy with some of that money you’ve perhaps saved during lockdown!
TRAQUAIR HOUSE AND BREWERY
Built as a royal hunting lodge near Peebles and spanning nearly a thousand years of Scottish history, trace the footsteps of the many kings and queens of Scotland who visited, discover how priests escaped in times of danger, and see the wonderful collection of artefacts and relics.
Did you know?
- Outside Traquair House you can wander in the extensive grounds and woodlands, entertain children in the maze and adventure playground, or simply relax for lunch or tea in the 1745 Cottage Restaurant. You can also explore the historic brewery.
- There has been a brewery here since Mary Queen of Scots visited Traquair in the 16th century. It fell into disuse for over 200 years but was rediscovered by Peter Maxwell Stuart, 20th Laird of Traquair, who restarted it in 1965. They produce a selection of traditional Scottish ales which have won awards all over the world – and you’ll undoubtably want to take a few home with you for afterwards!
MELLERSTAIN HOUSE & GARDENS
Just 15 minutes from Kelso or Melrose, Mellerstain House is a beautiful Georgian mansion and a unique example of Adam design, located within 100 acres of mature parkland.
Did you know?
- Commissioned by the Baillie family, it was designed by two of Scotland’s greatest architects - William Adam and his son Robert. It is celebrated as one of Robert Adam’s finest works and among the most beautiful houses in the country.
- It’s full of interiors that live up to the grandeur you’d expect from the exterior, with a wealth of artwork, stunning craftmanship and luxury at every turn. Outside there are terraces and formal gardens, designed in their current form in 1910 by Reginald Blomfield in an Italian style matching the 18th century house. There’s a lovely café here too.
- Dogs are welcome in the grounds but must be kept on a lead.
You may also enjoy Abbotsford, which is the beloved creation of Sir Walter Scott.
You can find more things to do in your local area at Scotland Starts Here.
Where will you go on your first trip beyond your own doorstep? Share your ideas and fascinating facts on Scottish Borders in our iKnow Community or on social media.
With so many places to visit across Scotland, will you head to one of your favourites or try somewhere new to tick off the bucket list? Check out our other articles for more ideas for your first (second, third and fourth…) trip within Scotland.